skincare gifts

The Truly Universal Skincare & Beauty Gifts We’re Giving This Christmas

It’s nearly 2021 and by now we are well-versed in inclusive, gender-neutral, status-quo-challenging ideas about beauty. Makeup is a fun (and optional!) self-expression tool that belongs to everyone regardless of gender. Taking care of your skin is not superficial or relegated only to The Gals. Products are becoming less focused on the gender-identity and age demographic of its user, and more on efficacy, high-quality ingredients and formulations that work for skin types across the board. You already know: we love to see it.

With that said, something that’s been playing on my mind recently is if it’s actually possible to give someone a great and universally usable skincare or beauty gift. This is going beyond simply ordering a restock of your best friend’s favourite serum or your mom’s signature fragrance—thoughtful, but too easy.

In the interests of avoiding unwanted body butter trios languishing in the back of wardrobes or ending up as landfill, please find a curated list below of inclusive, gender-neutral Christmas skincare and beauty gifts. Some considerations noted when curating this list: could it work for all skin types, including the very sensitive and very acne-prone? Is the packaging trying to shove the heteronormativity down our throats? Does this require a degree in cosmetic science or a makeup masterclass to figure out how to use it? If it passed those tests, you’ll find it below.

Hummm Skincare

An Australian skincare offering that I’ve had my eye on for a while and recently had the pleasure of trying is Hummm, thoughtfully created by Emma Vaughan and Zoë Rubino. I knew it was going to be good when I spotted my favourite meditation teacher Manoj Dias in the included zine, but they really knocked it out of the skincare shelf with this one. The two-product strong line is deliberately minimal, as Hummm encourages a pared back approach to skincare. Comprising of the Botanical Peptide Serum and the Squalane Face Oil the line’s two products can be used on their own or paired for really dreamy results.

It’s been a while since I’ve incorporated a leave-on chemical exfoliant into my routine (our skin’s microbiome is not the enemy!) and the Botanical Peptide Serum was such a delightful reunion. With moisture-grabbing humectants like the AHA lactic acid and hyaluronic acid, combined with responsibly sourced (socially and environmentally) Australian botanical extracts, this left my face well hydrated and ready for whatever oil or moisturiser came next. How smooth my skin felt after consistent use actually took me by surprise too. Hello again gentle chemical exfoliants, forgot about you for a second there.

The Squalane Face Oil is also beautifully formated, with a mixture of nutrient-rich plant oils. With your skin-loving fatty acids, omegas and beta carotene covered off in the blend of oils, think of this oil as a true health food for your skin. Both the serum and oil are cruelty-free, free of artificial fragrances and come thoughtfully and minimally packaged in a gift-ready recyclable cardboard box. Both formulations would work across the skin-type spectrum—if we could, we’d give this mindful gift to everyone.

Botanical Peptide Serum, $98 from Hummm. Squalane Face Oil, $75 from Hummm. Alternatively grab the Duo or a sample set, respectively $155 and $8 from Hummm.

Ultra Violette & Everyday Humans

Having written extensively about my appreciation for folks making a better class of sunscreen on Syrup already, these two SPF companies probably don’t need much of an introduction. Ultra Violette and Everyday Humans make some of our favourite body and face SPFs, and with sunscreen being an every day, year-round, no-matter-if-you’re-melanated essential, it makes for a perfect gift.

For two picks that’ll work on every skin type, we’d suggest the Ultra Violette Lean Screen and the Everyday Humans Oh My Bod! body SPF. Once again, I am begging, please make this body SPF in a litre size because it’s one of the best we’ve ever slip-slop-slapped. It’s thin, light, non-greasy and sinks in nearly instantaneously.

Oh My Bod! SPF 50 Body Sunscreen, $31 from Sephora.

Votary

Another skincare brand I cannot recommend enough is the clean, green and packaged in recyclable glass range from Votary. For full disclosure, after luckily being gifted the Votary Super Seed Facial Oil and Super Seed Serum, myself and my partner burned through this duo. So much so that I replaced them myself immediately and am now sadly finishing my second bottles. I almost wish I hadn’t introduced him to this range because it’s just so on point, formula, texture and ethos wise and I’d like it to last longer, tbh. That said, the slightly bigger than usual 50ml bottles are very generous.

The Super Seed Serum is emollient and hydrating enough for my drier skin while being light and readily absorbed by my live-in skincare beneficiary’s more normal, redness-prone skin. (Which it did an amazing job of soothing and evening out.) The Super Seed Facial Oil is everything I look for in a facial oil. It’s chock-full of nourishing plant, nut and seed oils, including my favourite antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory black cumin seed oil. Plus, with no essential oils in sight, this facial oil has no chance of being photosensitising and is very unlikely to irritate even the most sensitive of skins. These are skincare gifts that we’d want to keep for ourselves.

Votary Super Seed Facial Oil, $140 from Sephora. Votary Super Seed Serum, $150 from Votary.

Facial Massage Tools

Conversations around the cultural appropriation of gua sha tools have finally hit the mainstream this year, and we are extremely here for the thoughtful critique of co-opted wellness practices. That said we do still think there’s something in taking the time and mental space to give yourself a facial massage and gifting someone a responsibly sourced tool is a great universal beauty present. Used correctly, they’re excellent for massaging a puffy post-prosecco face, aiding lymph drainage and just generally being very soothing on a tired face.

Quartz Sculpt & Lift Face Stone, $30 from Ere Perez. For a larger tool, try the Lanshin Intro Gua Sha tool, $35 from Lanshin.

Youth To The People

Another skincare company killing the great values and great products game that deserves a rave is Youth To The People. The brand is a California-based and family-owned vegan skincare brand designed for all genders, all skin types and all skin tones. From their sustainable packaging to the sourcing of their ingredients to the social causes they support and give back to, I cannot find fault with pretty much anything they’re putting down.

The Dream Eye Cream is a great entrance-point to the line, which does use some pretty potent actives in some of it’s other products. This whipped, buttery formula glides on and leaves the delicate eye skin feeling so supple and protected. And yes, she’s fragrance-free.

Youth To The People Dream Eye Cream, $82 from Sephora.

Konjac Sponge

A zero waste, biodegradable, all-natural cleasing and gently exfoliating tool we’re giving as a skincare gift this Christmas is the humble konjac sponge. When soaked with water, this little sea sponge provides the gentlest, cushiest boost to your usual cleansing routine and might be all the physical exfoliation that some sensitive skins need.

KUU konjac sponge, $13.92 from Biome. It also comes in a completely packaging-free option, $11.95 from Biome.

Body Brush

In a same-same but different vein, a body brush is an equally useful and satisfying beauty tool that we reckon most people would benefit from. As well as just feeling incredibly satisfying, body brushing is a zero-waste mode of gentle exfoliation that also boosts circulation in your skin. After this year, anything that makes me feel tingly and ✨alive✨ is a worthy Christmas gift in my books.

Sisal Dry Body Brush, $16.95 from Biome.

Monisha Rudhran (@monishamay) is a writer and chronic Pisces. Formerly at Syrup, she's now a Digital Content Producer at ELLE and marie claire Australia. She’s into trying to be a better person and sparkling water.